A Day In The Largest City In The 49th State

This is what a Man who has not seen the sun for a week looks like when he sees the sun.

We are homeward bound. We decided to have a one day buffer in Anchorage on our way back from Utqiagvik as we may have had some need to meet with Alaskan State officials and travel from the Great White can be plagued by weather delays. In the end neither materialized so we were free to spend our Saturday as our own! And boy did we get lucky. It topped out at 33F while Chicago barely topped 12F. I managed to sleep in to 6am, an accomplishment since I had been averaging between 4 and 5. Kinda stuck on Midwest time and the lack of diurnal cycle (sun cycles) means the time you get out of bed is somewhat academic.

screen shot 2019-01-26 at 2.14.25 pm
My route via Strava.

The thing I was, without a doubt, was seeing the sun. And the forecast was for above freezing temperatures and partly sunny. So after working on the previous blog post I grabbed an Uber and headed downtown (at 8…). I pulled up at the eclectic Side Street Espresso and had a coffee and Muffin. From there I struck out aiming to hit the Tony Knowles Coastal TrailThis trail is a gem in the crown of Anchorage! 


The trail was very icy but the scenery was stunning. I first noticed the sun as it was hitting the banks on the opposite side of the ice laden bay. The trail took a path inland to the Westchester Lagoon which was completely iced over.. There I was greeted with the amazing glow of the Sun. It was here I realized I was not made to live in the north. A visit is amazing but the sun warms and rejuvenates!

Anchorage framed by the Chugach Mountain Range.

The light, the wind and the temperature were just perfect for a photographic expedition. During my postgraduate and postdoctoral years I was passionate about my photography but I kind of let it go once I started at Argonne.

Reflecting on cloud physics.

The trip to a truly unique place (Utquigvik) motivated me to get out my old D200 body, clean it up, by a new waking around lens (18-200 DX VR, very happy!). Good news is I was not as rust as I thought! And better (and self affirming) news is my expensive camera and gear still takes a better photo than my iPhone X :). Even better, as well as providing a much needed leg stretching exercise (to keep my weight loss on track for the Barry Roubaix) the trail provided amazing view back on the city perfect for using a telephoto lens to provide perspective to the background Chugach Mountain Range.

I love planes.

But that is not the thing that kept me walking.. The trail also hugs the end of the main runway of the Ted Stevens Anchorage airport. The airport is strangely busy with heavy 747 freight planes. And the trail provides a unique vantage point to watch departing flights over the bay. I have a first class honors degree in Advanced Physics, a PhD in physical sciences and a graduate diploma in meteorology and I still marvel at these metal machines lumbering into the skies.

Water and ice shapes the land of Alaska and the peoples, native and transplanted, work with the water and ice

5 1/2 miles of walking done, time for some beer, some food and a fair degree of waiting until our 11:30 flight to Denver and then to Chicago. I have found my time in the 49th state of the union, Alaska, to be profoundly formative. I will reflect on this in full in future posts but, in short, I think no other place sees such influence by and on the atmosphere I study. Be it the snow in Anchorage or the sea ice the Iñupiat hunt on in Utqiagvik, water and ice shapes the land of Alaska and the peoples, native and transplanted, work with the water and ice. I’ll be back to this land.

One thought on “A Day In The Largest City In The 49th State

  1. Pingback: Always Take The Weather With You: Part Two – OpenSky

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